Empty Danforth Plot Undergoes Redevelopment Plans

From the good people at Spacing Toronto…specifically Nicole Bruun-Meyer…

danforth sign

I recently attended a community meeting regarding the redevelopment proposal for 2055-2057 Danforth Avenue, at the intersection of Danforth and Woodbine. This site, empty since 2001, is slated for a 12-storey condominium with retail space at the ground level. The reason for the community meeting, held by Councillor Sandra Bussin, was because of a rezoning application for the site, which would allow the developer the extra building height.

Prish Jain, of TACT Design, presented the concept for the new building, showing its footprint on the overall site, with its affect on sun and privacy for the local residents. This was followed up with remarks by Leontine Major, Senior Planner, City of Toronto Planning Department and then a question and answer period. The  gathering, which attracted about 50 attendees, was a chance for the local residents to raise concerns on specifically the height of the proposed building. The current bylaw allows for five-storeys, while Toronto’s Official Plan suggests a density of nine-storeys for this area.

The site is quite unique, with no real precedent for its development. It fronts onto Danforth Avenue, while also having access from Woodbine Avenue. The back part of the plot is directly adjacent to residential backyards, providing a high impact on the direct community. It also covers two different planning designations, the front, along Danforth, is considered Mixed Use Area, while the rear is under Neighbourhoods. These two designations have different planning criteria, height restrictions, density allowances and objectives. This creates its own challenges for the site and the surrounding areas. Within the ‘mixed use’ portion of the site, the height limit allowed is 14 and 12 metres, whereas the ‘neighbourhood’ areas have a limit of 10 metres. In Section 4.2 of the Official Plan, it distinguishes between Apartment Neighbourhoods and low-rise Neighbourhoods, since, for the former, “a greater scale of buildings is permitted and different scale-related criteria are needed to guide development.” The predominent height in this area of the Danforth is three to four storeys high, so whether this proposal is the City’s suggested 9-storeys or the designed 12-storeys, it will be the tallest structure in the vicinity.

The site also falls into the Avenues category of the Official Plan, which according to Section 2.2.3, states Avenues are “important corridors along major streets where reurbanization is anticipated and encouraged to create new housing and job opportunities, while improving the pedestrian environment, the look of the street, shopping opportunities and transit service for community residents.”

The predominant concern of the community was the  height issue, but they were also concerned with losing the character of their neighbourhood, as one attendee said, “ruining the uniqueness of this area,” while others are worried about the big box commercial retailers pushing the local business owners out. However, as a local business owner pointed out, “from the commercial side, if we do not have more people, we won’t survive.” From the residents to the back of the site, they are obviously concerned about over-looking and privacy.

The proposed building steps back from Danforth, starting at 4-storeys to 9-storeys, 12-storeys and back down to 4-storeys. The Architects have also pushed the bulk of the building into the mixed-use zone, keeping the underground parking entrance and drop-off point in the neighbourhood zone, using the access from Woodbine Avenue. It has incorporated the garbage and recycling bins within the building to keep them out of view of the residential neighbours.

I will be writing about the future of this development and the implementation of city-wide planning guidelines within smaller communities. There is a concern about losing our ‘neighbourhoods’ and their uniqueness, however Toronto is a growing and changing city, which presents its own challenges to intensification and reurbanization.

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As for DECA’s position on this; we will be having a special meeting on this issue in particular and at that point will be deciding what our role and official position will be.  Stay tuned.

 

 

0 comments to “Empty Danforth Plot Undergoes Redevelopment Plans”
  1. I was also unable to attend the meeting, but will say that the area could certainly use some intensification. As much as I love Danforth East, I do have to admit that the number of empty storefronts and not-so-desirable businesses is a bit high. We need an infusion of local residents who will shop in the area, and this condo could be the start of that. True, 12 storeys seems a bit high from an architectural point of view, but the site is within metres of a subway station and, like it or not, that is exactly the kind of place that should be intensified.

    This proposed condo represents what I think should be the future of Danforth East – a densely developed and more vibrant street, surrounded by the existing residential areas. And that sounds much better to me than empty storefronts and big holes.

  2. I attended the meeting and by and large was impressed by the thought and creativity that seemed to inform the project. Though there were some concerns expressed I noted a number of fairly quiet positive comments among attendees. Since moving into the area about four years ago my wife and I have been dismayed by the generally down at heal look of Danforth East between Coxwell and Woodbine. This bit of intensification is an important step in rejuvenating the area and bringing more folks onto the street.

  3. Thanks for the update Nicole.

    I agree the area could use some intensification and fewer dodgy, shuttered storefronts. We do need the infusion of local residents to shop in the area. I welcome the development.

  4. I agreen with Alexis. Intensification increases local shop traffic, supports local business and makes our part of the Danforth safer. If we want our home values to remain or increase, we need to support efforts to increase our local population with home owning, responsible citizens who live close enough to the Danforth that they will more inclined to shop there than go downtown.

  5. I hope the comments that have already been made reflect the prevailing mood in the area towards this proposal. I wholeheartedly agree that residential development along Danforth East needs to be intensified, provided the projects are well designed. The subway in some respects led to the downfall of Danforth East. Good quality intensification will bring it back, and this could be the beginning of an interesting little hub at Woodbine and Danforth. Another huge step forward would be to reduce traffic on the eastern stretch of the Danforth so it’s similar to the traffic flow in the Greektown/Riverdale area. I think we should be lobbying for this. Right now, Danforth East is too much like a highway.

  6. I did attend the meeting and am opposed to the rezoning that would allow this to be built to 12 storeys. I believe that a much more appropriate development would be a 5 storey intensification that respects the existing scale of the neighbourhood. A high rise building would fill the hole, yes, but won’t necessarily add to the safety, liveability and overall attractiveness of our area. I believe we can do better. A Carrot Common like development with five storeys of residential space would add charm and style to the area, enhancing the street front with options for commercial activity while adding an incremental and much more manageable level of intensification. The 12 storey building proposed would stand out like a sore thumb for years as property on The Danforth is in the hands of many individual owners who are mostly renovating slowly upwards to three storey.

  7. I attended the meeting with an open mind, and after some deliberation I’ve come to feel that the proposed development would have a positive impact on our neighbourhood. The design that was presented wasn’t the 12-storey monolith that I feared.

  8. Hi,
    I was at the meeting as well and support the proposed development. (12 storey)
    It just makes sense to have such a high rise close to the subway station.
    I also think that the condos in this building will be sold quite quickly because of the short distance to the subway and more residents will help support small businesses in this neighborhood.
    Opposing this modern development and trying to convince the developer to built a 5 storey building will lead ( if the developer is even open to think about this) to a building that will cover the complete footprint of the property – leaving neighbours with a 5 storey building in their backyards and not the proposed landscaping which looked more attractive to me.

  9. A letter posted on behalf of Sheri Henderson, resident of West Lynn Ave…

    Att’n Leontine Major
    Senior Planner
    City of Toronto

    Dear Ms. Major:

    I recently attended the community meeting regarding the building proposal for 2055-2057 Danforth Avenue. I live and work in the immediate neighbourhood, and share many of the concerns expressed by others at the meeting.

    You asked us to write you to detail our thoughts on the proposed development. I’d like to preface my comments by stating that I absolutely support the development of suitable residential and/or commercial building on that site.

    At issue is this proposal’s unsuitability for the area.

    Driving west on Danforth from Woodbine, there are several new developments under construction. None are more than 3 or 4 storeys high and seem to fit in nicely with the feel & style of the neighbourhoods. I believe many of us would be happy to see some quality lowrise residential and/or commercial on the site, and wonder why a 12 storey building is being considered for 2055-2057 Danforth.

    In the City’s own words, “A key objective of the Official Plan is to guide new development to respect and reinforce the general physical patterns of the Neighbourhood”. The current height limit on the Danforth is 14 metres. This proposal is for a 38 metre building. That’s almost 3 times higher than the current allowable limit.

    According to Section 4.1 (a) Policy 9 , the buildings “will have heights, massing and scale appropriate for the site and compatible with that permitted by the zoning for adjacent and nearby residential properties” How is the proposed development in keeping with the city’s own stated objectives of respecting & reinforcing the patterns of the neighbourhood?

    I can only imagine the concerns & frustrations of those living on Moberly & Mendel (as well as East Lynn and further). They would be literally living in the shadows of this proposed building.

    There is no doubt that such a building would have a serious negative impact on some property values on Moberly, Mendel and East Lynn. All privacy would be lost to these residents. Their back yards would be observable to aynyone choosing to gaze down from above. City planners need only go to the top of any 12 storey building (even a 6 storey structure) and observe the extent of the vista below them. This contravenes Section 4.1 (b) of Policy 9 which states that infill development “will provide adequate privacy, sunlight and sky views for residents of new and existing buildings …”

    The same policy section would apply to the issue of “skyview” as well. This neighbourhood has existed for 80+ years. There is & should be, a reasonable expectation in any mature neighbourhood that “skyview” will not be dramatically altered – as it surely would be by the construction of a 12 srtorey structure. The desirable elements that have attracted people to this neighbourhood for years should continue to be respected and maintained.

    News of this proposal has already negatively affected residents on Moberly. Concern over the building’s approval has recently motivated two homeowners on Moberly to sell – and others are planning to move very soon. There is no question that the approval of this building will devalue local homes.

    The developer’s “Sun/Shadow” studies briefly addressed how the proposed building would impact properties to the south of the development. Of course, significant morning sun would be blocked. I don’t recall seeing shadow studies regarding the buildings on the north side of Danforth. By observing other locations in the city, it’s evident that a 12 storey building on the south side of the street would block the sun, for a good part of the afternoon, from the existing buildings on the north side of Danforth.

    Parking, congestion, noise & pollution are also serious concerns for the neighbourhood. Residents on Moberly with permit parking, already have difficulty finding a parking spot on their street. Parking on Danforth is limited at best & further restricted during rush hours. With only 120 underground parking spaces for 141 units and NO parking provided for patrons of the proposed ground-level commercial – the parking issues on the surrounding streets are certain to become terribly exacerbated.

    Ventilation of the proposed 2-level underground parking area would require the continuous operation of 2 large fans (one at each end of the parking lot). One of those would be adjacent to residential back yards which would subject these homeowners to unhealthy noise pollution and carbon monoxide fumes.

    Are there any plans for a new traffic signal to assist traffic flow as cars try to enter & exit the parking areas from Woodbine Avenue?

    This developer’s proposal seems entirely profit-driven as it attemps to squeeze as many saleable units as possible onto the site – to the detriment of the neighbourhood. While we undertand the need to be profitable, this should not be at the expense of the local home-owners.

    We hope that our neighbourhood voice will be heard in this process. We all want to see our community grow in a direction that will attract and nurture vibrant new businesses and support existing ones. This includes new residential and commercial developments that “Add to the quality of Neighbourhood life” and will be in compliance with the Ciy’s own zoning by-laws and stated “Policy 9” objectives.

    I would much appreciate being kept apprised of any future developments or meetings regarding this development proposal.

    Thank you.

    Yours truly,
    Sherri

    West Lynn Avenue

  10. I would like to respond to some of Sherri’s comments.

    * Danforth Ave is not considered to be part of the City’s “Neighbourhood” designation. It is classified as Mixed-Use, and only the rear portion of the property in question falls under Neighbourhoods. In addition, Danforth also falls into the “Avenues” category, where intensification is encouraged. In fact, although the current height limit for Danforth is five storeys, the Official Plan suggests a density of nine storeys. As such, the developer’s proposal is not that far off from what they City is suggesting for this kind of street. At most, I would imagine that this proposal will be ammended to reduce the height by a few storeys.

    * The builder has addressed the rear portion of the proposal adequately by limiting the height there to four storeys to ease the transition into the neighbouring low-rise community. Yes, people in the 12-storey section along Danforth would be able to gaze down upon neighbouring backyards, but so what? Toronto is a constantly growing and evolving city, and we can no longer continue to grow outward – we must grow upward. If you want absolute privacy, perhaps Toronto is not the best place for you to live.

    * Not everyone who buys a unit in this proposed building will own a car. It’s a proven fact, as evidenced in hundreds of other similar condos in the city. Most of the units are small and will have only one bedroom, and a fair amount of these buyers will not own a car. It is simply not true that parking issues will become “terribly exacerbated”. Yes, there may be a small increase in the number of vehicles parking on Daforth or surrounding streets, but you devalue your argument by exaggerating the impact it will have.

    * I do not believe at all that real estate values will decrease as a result of the proposed development. Just look at Yonge & Sheppard, or Yonge & Eglinton, where many low-rise neighbourhoods are now surrounded by 15+ storey highrises. People lucky enough to own single-family houses there have seen tremendous increases in their propery values, not because of the condos themselves, but because of what the condos and the influx of residents brought to their respective communities (ie much stronger retail strips and more services along the main avenues).

    * As for the ventilation shafts and noise pollution, our Danforth subway has ventilation shafts all along Strathmore Ave, and no one seems to complain about those (nor have they negatively impacted propery values along that street). Again, in a large city, you will have to put up with shafts, noise, traffic, etc.

    * Finally, yes, this proposal in entirely profit-driven. Why woudn’t it be? And why would a developer waste their time building a small-scale, three storey structure where they will barely earn back the money they must invest to develop it? I for one am grateful that someone sees the value of this property and is willing to develop it. I hope they make a lot of money doing it so that other empty plots on Danforth get revitalized.

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